Moving to Hong Kong with No Job (And What I Learned)

Two years ago, I quit my sous chef job in London and moved halfway across the world to pursue a career as a writer.

You did what?!

I’d never been to Hong Kong, I’d never lived with my girlfriend before, I’d never written for a living. Yet I decided to make all of those moves at once.

I had been working towards heading up my own kitchen for a decade, slogging out in some of London’s toughest hotel kitchens, working a freezing winter a Borough Market. I finally made it to sous chef level in my dream job, using the most modern of techniques and working with an inspirational chef who had worked at The Fat Duck, Le Gavroche and Galvin at Windows.

I was getting one-on-one mentorship from a guy swimming in Michelin stars who was also my best buddy.

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So why did I jack it all in to move to Hong Kong?

Well, I think it has something to do with my Dad.

My Dad’s Influence

My Dad was voted one of the top 10 British copywriters of all time. Back in the heydey of print advertising, he brought in millions of pounds for some of the biggest names in the business, heading up some of London’s top agencies.

He was at the height of his career, winning all the awards imaginable, with three children and my Mum at home all depending on him.

My Dad quit his job in advertising to become a novelist.

He did what?!

Now my decision to move to Hong Kong doesn’t seem so insane right?

If you want to hear about what happened next, you can read his book, The Cybergypsies, which details his addiction to the earliest form of the internet, his friendship with a guy called Jesus Slut Fucker and how he almost destroyed his marriage and lost the house because he forgot to pay the tax bill.

But long story short, he knew he could do more with his life than make money for big corporations. He found an agent, he wrote books, he became a novelist.

It didn’t always go to plan. Most of the copies of his first book ended up as a coffee table in our living room.

But in 2007, after years of fear and doubt about his decision, his first novel Animal's People was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

He's the guy in the blue shirt in the middle

He's the guy in the blue shirt in the middle

Back to my big move

We arrived in Hong Kong and wow – what a place! People everywhere, huge skyscrapers backing onto lush green hills. A melding of East and West. Driving past all of this fresh off the plane, I was amazed at the sheer scale of the place.

We found a place to live and I started applying for positions as a writer. I had my A-level in English Literature, I had been writing for a couple of online magazines on the side while I was a chef and I had my own blog. But that was the extent of my experience.

After a couple of weeks, I lost my confidence and started to think about getting a job in a kitchen again. Doubt, fear and feelings of inadequacy started to surface.

Then I received an email from Time Out Hong Kong.

I’d forgotten that I’d applied there, thinking they’d never consider me for the internship.

“Would you be free to come in for an interview?”

Wow, this was it.

I started as an intern and after my 10 weeks were up, I managed to wangle a position as Editorial Assistant.

After a few more months I had written hundreds of articles, I’d explored the city as a Time Out journalist and I was being invited to all sorts of fancy foodie events all over town.

I eventually left Time Out for a job as an in-house copywriter at Hong Kong’s fastest growing restaurant group. And two months ago, I started my own freelance copywriting business.

How could this be? Two years ago, I was a novice in a new city halfway across the world.

Well, just like my Dad, I believed in my own ability, I worked hard, and I took risks.

I firmly believe you can do whatever you want to do. Find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. Take risks, be proactive, keep learning, read books, find a mentor, and send out applications for jobs you have no right to apply for. Jobs you think you have no hope of getting.

Jump in at the deep end. Grasp opportunities when they come along. Take risks. Move to the other side of the world.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Did this story resonate with you?

When have your risks paid off (or backfired)?

Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear your stories!

Sam SinhaComment